A Midlife Career Change Could Be Your Greatest Asset

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Michael Haubrich has developed a program called Career Asset Management. His approach helps clients view their careers as one of their most valuable assets, right alongside their homes and retirement accounts.

It makes sense. Americans at modest income levels (less than $40,000) who work from age 20-60 have a career valued at over $1 million. A midlife career change that extends the life of that career can substantially improve their future wealth, thus providing more income and more security for when they retire.

The key to extending the life of your career: having what Cali Williams Yost, author of "Work + Life: Finding the Fit That's Right for You," calls "a better work-life fit."

In their work, both Haubrich and Yost help clients find practical solutions. In addition, Haubrich helps clients consider the financial aspects of a midlife career change so they can feel comfortable that the decision will not set them back. Here are some suggestions to consider.

Think About New Possibilities

There are rewards that come from solving problems at work. If your career is not offering a sufficient level of satisfaction, it can be easy to think that retirement is the way out. Many retirees, however, find that retirement is not what they had hoped for.

What they really wanted was a place where they could thrive. A place where they could contribute and be part of something exciting. A midlife career change may be a viable alternative to retirement and it may also prove to be more personally rewarding.

Don't Assume You Can't Afford to Make a Change

For example, assume you dislike your $100,000 per year job. You figure you can last another five years in your career. In simple numbers, that adds $500,000 of income to your family. There is an alternative job you think you'd like, but it only pays $55,000 a year.

However, making this midlife career change would mean you would not burn out, and could happily continue to work for another 12 years. Using simple numbers, the lower-paying job adds $660,000 of income to your family.

Although you may not be able to contribute as much to retirement plans with the lower-paying job, by working longer you would be delaying the time where you needed to take withdrawals from those plans. If you are not comfortable running through financial scenarios by yourself, find a skilled financial planner to help you. You may find you have options that are both financially and personally appealing.

Negotiate With Your Employer

Employers who value your skills will be open to suggestions. The key to discussing options is to be honest with your employer. Don't threaten. Let them know you'd like to remain a part of their company for many years, and that a few small changes would make all the difference. A few ideas:

  • Telecommute: If higher gas prices are wearing on you, ask if there is an option to work from home one or two days a week.
  • Flextime: Suggest a flextime approach, allowing you to adjust your schedule to avoid traffic or accommodate family matters.

Taking a Team Approach

If you find there are certain aspects of your job that you excel at, be honest with your employer, and ask for more responsibilities along those lines. At the same time, consider finding a coworker who excels at aspects of your job that you don't enjoy. Your employer might be open to a team approach to getting the work done.

Learn New Skills

New skills improve confidence and open up doors to alternative job opportunities. Consider taking an accounting class, a community college class on public speaking, or learning a new computer program such as PowerPoint or Excel. It's never too late to pursue a career that you're passionate about.

Consider Project-Based Employment

Find employment that matches your lifestyle. Instead of fitting your life into your job, find ways to extend the longevity of your career by fitting your job into your life.

Many cruise ships and other vacation destinations need skilled medical professionals on staff and can offer seasonal schedules. Accounting firms need help each tax season. Engineering firms can reduce costs by having experienced professionals that they hire on a project basis.